Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently. The base <phone> relates to sound, while the base <hom> denotes “same”. The study of homophones allows us to look at the meaning behind the spelling of two words that sound the same and why they might be spelled differently.
This word pair came up when a student spelled <fawn> as <faun> and I’ve learned that sometimes what we might think is a “nonsense word”, is actually a real word. It certainly was here. This was one of my favorite homophone studies to date!
Fawn is a noun meaning a young deer (Websters). Bambi is a fawn, a very cute fawn. Fawn can also be used as a verb to show affection. The teenagers are fawning over the band. The noun originally came from Old French <faon, feon> earlier derived from the Latin of meaning an offspring (Etymonline). Originally the term referenced any animal baby, but over time it grew to just apply to deer. The verb however is Old English <fægnian> denoting “rejoice, be glad, exult, applaud”. It derives from the Old English word for glad.
Faun is a noun meaning a deity with human form along with goat characteristics in their ears, horn, tail and legs (World Reference). Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia is a faun. A faun is similar to a satyr, that is referenced in Riordon’s Percy Jackson books. While fauns and satyrs are similar, fauns are Roman mythology and satyrs are from Greek mythology. A faun’s animal characteristics are goat and wasn’t always represented with goat hind legs. The animal characteristics of a satyr are typically horse or donkey. The word faun derives from Latin <faunus> which came from Greek φαῦνος, phaunos. Faunus was a Roman woodland God. He was written about by Virgil and in modern times he is referenced as Pan. A grammatical note that the plural of <faun> is <fauni>.
I would like to thank my students who brighten my day with their questions and Doug Harper at Etymonline for providing us with such valuable resources, as well as the artists who created these fabulous images.
Faun image credit: http: Amanda Edlund //www.deviantart.com/art/Faun-196262322
Fawn image credit:Jessica Lee https://www.facebook.com/JLPhotos